Steelers make it clear they are not eyeing center in the first round of the NFL Draft

Pittsburgh needs help at center, but a lack of representation at important Pro Days shows they aren't interested in taking one at pick 20.

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As soon as the 2023 season ended, fans and the media alike assumed that the Pittsburgh Steelers could be looking at taking a center in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. Mason Cole was coming off a bad season, and the team quickly cut ties with him early in the offseason.

Since the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey following the 2020 season, the Steelers have had a desperate need at center, and players like Cole and Kendrick Green failed to fill the void.

Most fans would consider center among the three biggest needs on Pittsburgh's roster this year but don't assume that the Steelers are interested in filling the void in the first round of the NFL Draft.

During the rush of free agency, Oregon held its Pro Day, and Jackson Powers-Johnson was the main event. However, it was OL coach Pat Meyer -- not Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan -- who showed up to watch him work out.

Because of everything that was going on with free agency, we could have looked past the lack of representation at Oregon's Pro Day. However, the Steelers did something similar when it was time for Graham Barton to perform.

Barton was primarily a left tackle during his college career, but many teams have him projected as one of the top center prospects in the class as they envision a positional change in the NFL. After the NFL owners' meetings had wrapped up, Pittsburgh's brass had no prior obligations on March 28th for Duke's Pro Day.

However, Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan were no-shows. Instead, it was new OC Arthur Smith who made the trip to see Barton perform, according to Mike Kaye of The Charlotte Observer.

Steelers are not showing enough interest in center to take one at pick 20

While it's great that Pat Meyer was at Oregon's Pro Day for Jackson Powers-Johnson and Arthur Smith showed up at Duke's Pro Day to watch Graham Barton perform, these aren't the guys in the front office calling the shots when the Pittsburgh Steelers are on the clock.

During the Mike Tomlin era, history shows us that the head coach and/or general manager need to be on hand at a player's Pro Day for that player to be considered with the first-round pick. In the past, Tomlin and Kevin Colbert needed to meet with a player at their Pro Day in order to feel comfortable enough to select them in the first round.

Now Colbert's role in the pre-draft scouting trail has been passed to Omar Khan. While drafting trends could change now that Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl are running the front office, we know that Coach Tomlin loves to be involved on the scouting trail, and he might not be willing to sign off on anyone he didn't meet with at their Pro Day.

Simply put, we have a lot of evidence now that the Steelers only draft players that Tomlin and the GM get a chance to meet with at the Pro Day, and we can't automatically assume that is going to end with a change in the front office -- especially considering that Khan worked as an understudy to Colbert for two decades.

While the Steelers have shown a lack of interest in the first-round center candidates, they have been enthralled with the offensive tackles during the 2024 pre-draft process. The Steelers have been at the Pro Days of players like Amarius Mims and JC Latham while bringing in Taliese Fuaga for a Top 30 pre-draft visit.

Nothing is set in stone. Players like Graham Barton and Jackson Powers-Johnson could be back on the radar if they earn Top 30 visits from the Steelers. As of now, Pittsburgh is making it clear that they aren't interested in taking a center with the 20th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.